After reading some recent Giz posts regarding the Hackintosh Netbook made with a Dell 9 Mini I was intrigued. I needed exactly that. A small, affordable Netbook running OS X to be used as a “control booth” for Sparky, able to run our modified Skype video chat software as well as the joystick control plug-in.
When the Dell came up for sale recently for $199 I jumped at it. I upgraded the RAM and built-in webcam, but I mistakenly selected an 8 GB SSD hard drive. This project would have gone sooo much easier if I had the 16 GB upgrade. It came to about $275 with tax and shipping direct from Dell. I also purchased a fresh 10.5.6 OS X install for about $130 and an 8 GB USB Thumbdrive for about $30. I already owned a no-name external DVD drive (actually a CD-RW I later found out) so I thought I had everything I would need. And patience. Did I mention patience? Because that’s the one thing that was really needed once I realized how many work-arounds this project would require.
There are many posts out there with more details than I could ever provide, so I’ll skip my usual step-by-step and leave it to the pros, but I will describe our solution in a broad stroke:
Ultimately we used another Macbook to install an OS X boot disc on an external hard drive and booted up the Dell with that. We already had an 8 GB thumbdrive prepared with a slimmed down version of the 10.5.6 installer disc and we used that to get OS X onto the Dell. To squeeze the bulk of 10.5.6 onto an 8GB SSD, we had to sacrifice the text-to-speech voices, as well as Apple’s mail app and all the other options available during the “custom install.” After numerous attempts we finally squeezed it down enough to fit.
As usual John C. Killed this project, ultimately delivering a perfect little Mac Netbook. But it took patience and creativity. It was an all-weekend, one-step-forward-two-steps-back kind of experience – mostly due to my poor choice of SSD size and thinking my external CD-RW was a DVD. Without those two mistakes, it is entirely possible to hack a dell 9 mini into a Mac in a few hours, I’m sure.
The final cost is about $450, less than half of the cost of the cheapest Apple laptop, and about a grand less than Apple’s netbook-ish Air. It may not have a big hard drive or internal DVD, but it’s not missing them either. It’s meant to be a Apple netbook. And that’s exactly what it is.